Taking a kid to Church

Mica Man

Active member
Jan 11, 2013
Mica Flats, Idaho
This year my 14-year-old son was fortunate enough to draw a much-coveted Bighorn sheep tag for our home state of Idaho. As luck would have it, and by the grace of the random draw process which Idaho utilizes, he was able to draw on his first attempt. This is pretty amazing considering as an 11-year-old, he was able to draw on his first attempt and successfully fill a Shiras moose tag on a 41-inch bull.


One lucky kid for sure -- and who says lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice!

As with many of the sheep hunt units in the state, access can be limited. His unit was a six-hour drive from our home in Coeur d’Alene, and had just one main road leading into the area.


Part of the hunt area lies in the Frank Church Wilderness of No Return. Besides the road, there are only a couple of airstrips, and a fork of the Salmon river running through it as access points. I had never set foot in this unit before in my life, but, with the help of Google Earth and a couple of calls and e-mails to the local biologist, we had a good idea of where to begin.


It wasn’t until the week before the season that my son and I were finally able to make a quick two-day trip down to the unit to see what lay in store for us. We were also able to make it down a day before the season opened to get another day of scouting in, with hopes of having a better idea of where to begin hunting.


Opening morning found us in a steep drainage counting sheep! Several lambs and ewes and a couple of small rams. On more than one occasion during our glassing we could hear sheep bleating and knew we were in a good area as the week before we had spotted four large rams on the ridge we were glassing from. No mature rams were spotted this day but we did have one little guy come to about 15 yards from us out of curiosity.


The next few days were filled with many of the same activities: looking at maps, dropping down and climbing up thousands of feet in elevation, eating what appeared to be squirrel food, and spending hours behind the glass each day looking for sheep. The views were fantastic and we were seeing sheep every day; however, they were not the mature rams he was hoping for

We enjoyed the country we were in with its many vistas while finding remnants from hunters who had come before us.


We spent five days exploring a small portion of the Frank Church on our first go around, never seeing a ram my son felt was worth ending his hunt on.

My work schedule, in addition to my son starting his freshman year of high school, really put a cramp into our hunting time. My wife felt our son should not miss school while I was of the opinion that he could simply repeat his freshman year, if necessary. Needless to say, a compromise was made and we were able to make a quick two-day trip back down.


We again saw several sheep and on the second day spotted three nice rams on a ridge top. Lucky for them, they were across the river and out of our reach. We watched them for a while before reluctantly turning around and making the long trek back to the truck.


On this trip however, we enjoyed the bugles of love-sick bulls, and were serenaded by the howl of wolves in the distance during the night. It’s amazing to me how the howl of a wolf can put a smile on your face while at the same time putting a chill down your spine. The Frank Church is just one place the lower 48 where an individual can experience all of these things and I was feeling fortunate to be sharing this all with my son.


Our third trip out came the first weekend in October. We had taken a couple of weeks off from hunting so that I could enjoy my annual fall pilgrimage up to Alaska with friends in search of silvers. With our coffers overflowing with salmon I returned home to a son who was antsy to get back to hunting sheep.


With a long midnight drive we arrived early in the morning to the trailhead only to be greeted by a downpour of rain. We waited in the truck until noon before the weather finally appeared to be breaking. We donned our raingear, shouldered our packs, and headed down the trail. About three miles into our hike, I found a rock shelter which was dry and allowed us to throw out our bags and drop most of our camp gear.


Despite the gray skies and occasional sprinklings of rain, we headed down the trail looking for sheep. The high country where we had hunted on our previous hunts was socked in with clouds and appeared pretty miserable. We continued hunting our way down the river another six and a half miles while only spotting a couple of rain-soaked ewes. However, as luck would have it just as we were about to turn around to make our way back to camp, I spied a ram across the river on a small knob looking down at us.

The next minute and a half or so felt like a circus as we frantically tried to find a suitable rest. We scampered from rock, to log, to rock before finally up-climbing to a semi flat spot where my son could actually sit without sliding down the hill and still rest his rifle on a rock. Fortunately for us, the ram must have been interested in what was going on below him, because he continued to peer down at us from his perch. I was able to get my son to take a few breaths while making a couple dry fire shots at the ram before chambering a round. I ranged the ram at 340 yards and anxiously peered through my binoculars to watch the shot. At the report of the rifle, the ram reared to his hindlegs while favoring his right shoulder. Another couple follow up shots from my son’s Tikka 270 WSM and the ram was down! My son turned to me with a smile on his face and said “Blue box Federals!”

We had a brief celebration, ate some more squirrel food, and then headed down the hill to the edge of the river. Here I removed a small Intex raft from my pack and began inflating it. After having seen the three rams across the river on our last trip, with no way of getting to them, I was not going to let that experience happen again. I tied 100 ft of paracord to the raft while giving the other end to my son. I safely paddled across the Salmon river to demonstrate how easy it could be. My son then pulled the raft back to his side of the river and attempted to repeat the process. It didn’t go quite as well as my journey. In fact, he finally met the bank about 75 yards downstream from where I had landed, just before a set of rapids that were too big for our little raft.


Not to mention, he also managed to lose one of the spatula sized paddles to the river! It’s amazing how well rain pants can work when one must run thigh deep out into a river to retrieve their sole means of propulsion. Despite having semi-wet feet, I was grateful to have two paddles instead of one for our return trip across the river.

The hike up to the ram from the river was a beast but worth it! More celebration and soaking in the moment after finally being able to put hands on the horns of his ram.


We reflected on what we had been through during this hunt and were now relishing the experience. We took a few photos and then began the process of breaking it down as it became dark around us.


Wet mossy rocks and grass coupled with heavy packs, darkness, and steep county made it a struggle getting back down to the river. My son was uneasy after his first experience of portaging the river, so, with it now being dark, it was decided that I would first cross with my pack, next with his, and then, for the final trip, both of us would squeeze into the raft and cross like a couple of refugees. After safely making it to the other side of the river, it was just a short six-and-a-half-mile hike in the dark back to our rock shelter and soft sleeping bags.
Morning came quick, but the rain and clouds from the day before was replaced with sun and blue sky. Fresh snow covered the mountain peaks up top where we had camped during our two previous hunts earlier in the season. We made it back to the truck with the meat, head, and cape, dropped it off, and headed back down river to pick up the rest of camp. We loaded our packs with our gear and my son and I slowly made our way back up the river to the truck.


Just as we were crossing out of the wilderness boundary I looked back across the river to admire the fall colors of the brush and spied a bull elk looking down at us from a small bench. I smiled at my son and thought to myself how good it was to take a kid to Church.


Apr 17, 2017
South Texas
That is a great story and wonderful pictures. I am glad you got to enjoy such a wonderful experience with your son. I also agree with you on letting him repeat freshman year. Haha Congratulations on a nice ram.


Active member
Jan 14, 2012
Boise, Idaho
Amazing story and beautiful ram. Hunt of a lifetime and some great memories for sure. Congratulations to you and your son.


Mar 4, 2016
Wow what a hunt and a great story. One of the best I’ve read on here. Congrats to you both!


Active member
Aug 30, 2009
North Carolina
Does your son know how fortunate he is? Just go ahead and squeeze him through his freshman year, because he'll just draw another rediculous tag next year! ;) Great write up and beautiful photos!


Active member
Aug 21, 2012
NW Iowa
Incredible! You guys got your money's worth and then some out of that tag! what an experience for both of you. Memories forever! CONGRATS!!